Translating GM-Speak, Votes of Confidence and Threats

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Most of the “rumors” or information from “insiders” is either fictional or planted and has no basis in fact. But there are other instances where baseball people say something without saying something; when they make a statement for selfish reasons, whether it’s to get the fans/media off their backs or to send a message to individuals. In recent days, there have been several such stories. As we saw with Mariners’ GM Jack Zduriencik saying that Ichiro Suzuki was a franchise player, then turning around and trading him, many times there’s an ulterior motive behind the rhetoric.

Let’s take a look at some statements and translate them into what is actually meant.

The Bobby Valentine vote of confidence

It’s called the “dreaded” vote of confidence because the perception is that it inevitably precedes a firing. Valentine just received one from the Red Sox’ front office. It’d be nice if some enterprising stat person with a lot of time on his or her hands did some research, looked into historic votes of confidence and crunched the numbers of a firing or not following the public declaration of job security.

The thing with Valentine is that he needs absolute support from the ownership to counteract the media/fan/player hate he engenders. If he doesn’t have that, there’s no point in keeping him around. If the Red Sox are truly invested in Valentine, they’re going to have to: A) make structural changes to the roster including getting rid of the subversive elements like Josh Beckett (which they’re probably going to try to do regardless of who the manager is); and B) give him at least an extra year on his contract for 2014.

They have to decide whether changing the manager is easier than changing the players and that can only be determined as they gauge interest in the likes of Beckett and even Jon Lester this September.

Translation: They don’t know whether Valentine’s coming back and it depends on a myriad of factors, not just putting up a good showing late in the season or making the playoffs.

David Samson on the Marlins

The Marlins’ hatchet-man, Samson, offered his opinions on this season. Here are the main quotes regarding owner Jeffrey Loria, baseball ops boss Larry Beinfest and GM Michael Hill:

“As we go into the offseason, the fact is, forgetting the injuries, the players we have right now should be winning games,” Samson said. “It’s clear the evaluation was wrong on certain players. It’s a constant process of seeing what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong, and changing. One thing we don’t want to be as a baseball organization is stubborn. We don’t want to not admit mistakes. Who is that serving?”

“Everything may change,” Samson said. “I think it’s going to be an interesting October, a little different than the October we envisioned …. [Loria] is angry and he should be. Me, Larry and Mike are only two, three and four in the disappointed department. He’s number one.”

The Marlins are a disaster, that’s something everyone can agree on. Given the constant changes in field staff and player personnel and that Samson mentioned the words “evaluation” and “wrong” without pointing the finger at himself or Loria, along with the history of Samson and Loria of firing people, there might be front office changes rather than field staff and player changes. The one static department has been the front office. Beinfest and Dan Jennings have been prevented from interviewing with other clubs for positions and they—Beinfest, Jennings, Hill—have super-long term contracts to stay.

Translation: Manager Ozzie Guillen is safe, but members of the baseball operations team are definitely not.

Manny Acta’s job security

Indians’ GM Chris Antonetti didn’t specifically say Acta would be back, but said he has, “no reason to think otherwise.” That’s not a ringing endorsement and the Indians have come undone—through no specific fault on the part of Acta—and faded from negligible contention. There’s talent on the team, but the issues they have stem from front office mistakes than anything Acta has or hasn’t done. Grady Sizemore was brought back and hasn’t played; Johnny Damon and Derek Lowe didn’t work out and were jettisoned; Casey Kotchman reverted back into being Casey Kotchman; Ubaldo Jimenez has been awful since being acquired from the Rockies.

I think they need a change and with Sandy Alomar Jr. still very popular in Cleveland and on several managerial short-lists, they won’t want to let him leave when he’d benefit the front office and shield them from rightful criticism for what they put together.

Translation: Acta won’t be back and will be replaced by Alomar.

Sandy Alderson says the Mets won’t eat Jason Bay’s contract

The Mets are saying they won’t pay Bay to leave. After this season, the Mets owe him $19 million. Those who are saying the Mets should just swallow the money are living in a dreamworld where $19 million is considered absolutely nothing. Yes, the money’s gone whether Bay’s here or not and while the Mets’ financial circumstances may have stabilized with the settlement of the Bernie Madoff lawsuit against the Wilpons, that doesn’t mean they’re going to hand Bay that golden parachute.

It’s not going to work in New York for Bay, but the Mets will exchange him for another bad contract before releasing him. A release would come next year despite the vitriol they’ll receive if he’s brought back.

Translation: The Mets aren’t releasing him now and won’t eat the money, but they’ll eat some of the money and trade him for another contract that’s equally bad. He’s not going to be a Met in 2013.

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Josh Beckett Is Untradeable

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It’s fine to speculate on the Red Sox making a dramatic move. They can send a message that the behavior that has made Josh Beckett a symbol of the team’s bad start will not be tolerated. But no one has addressed the question of who’s going to want him right now.

The answer is simple.

No one.

No one is taking that contract that (including this year) owes him $47.25 million through 2015.

If he was pitching well and with durability, someone would take him; but if that were the case, the Red Sox wouldn’t be 14-19 and in last place in the tough AL East.

They’re trapped on a treadmill and attached to one another.

The same personality traits that have made Beckett such a great post-season performer and good regular season starter have contributed to the problems he’s having now. He won’t back down. Ever. Nor will he fully admit contrition about anything.

Was he technically “right” when he refused to accept full blame for last season’s collapse due to he and his cohorts being out of shape and the beer and chicken consumption in the clubhouse during games?

Yes. He was “right” to imply that they’ve always done the same things and if it wasn’t a problem when the team was winning, it shouldn’t have been a problem when they were losing.

Was he, in theory, “right” to say that his golf outing was on an off day and it wasn’t anyone’s business even after he missed a scheduled start with a tight muscle in his back?

Yes. His day off is his business.

But Beckett misses the point on perception and placating the masses. There’s nothing wrong with saying “I’m sorry” whether it’s sincere or not. Beckett can’t bring himself to do that and, as a result, is under siege because of his arrogance and adherence to the misplaced concept that admitting wrongdoing is a sign of weakness.

It’s not.

It’s a sign of strength and his life would be far easier if he took the tack of accepting responsibility.

He won’t.

Trade speculation is a dead end. He’s staying in Boston not because of beer, chicken, golf or public ridicule. He’s staying in Boston because he’s making a lot of money and has been, at best, inconsistent. He’s pitched well in four of his six starts this season (his golf results are unknown), but teams don’t want that contract and they don’t need the aggravation. The Red Sox aren’t going to get much for him and trading him would put forth the image of giving up on the season—something they will not do until August, if at all.

This cycle will go on and on and the only thing that can help Beckett and the Red Sox is if he starts pitching well. If that happens, options will open. Until then, they’re stuck with one another.

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